Sunday, November 14, 2010

Final Reflection on the Course

It has been more than 12 weeks since I had entered the ES2007S: Professional Communication course module. Now, the course was about to end. Throughout these 12 weeks, I had enjoyed a lot of fun and enlightening moments in dwelling into the fields of professional communication.

I can still remember the first day when I entered this class. The main reason why I had entered this class was because I did not take up many modules for this semester, hence I need to find another module. Then, when I came across this module, I thought that it might prove very useful for me in the future; so I entered this class. After spending 12 weeks in this class, I was glad that I had made a wise choice.

When I first entered this class, everyone in the class was quiet, mainly because we were all strangers to one another. Of course, after the first week, we got to know more about one another after an ice-breaking session on the first day and being grouped together for different kinds of discussions. During the preparations for peer teaching and oral presentation, I made new friends as we had to work as a team. Everyone in the class was friendly and full of fun; it was nice knowing all of them.

As for the classes, they were all enjoyable. Brad is a great teacher. He inspired the class to interact and think, by interacting with the entire class himself. Unlike most lecturers in NUS, he did not "spoon feed" us, but he would give us hints and ideas for us to think for ourselves during his lessons. A few things that he did stress in his lessons, though, was about the importance of intercultural relationships. For example, he did emphasize a lot of times that overgeneralization and stereotyping must be avoided for every intercultural behaviour. For a class filled with a mixture of students from China, Singapore, Malaysia, and even Indonesia and Vietnam, I guess it is reasonable why interracial tolerance must be emphasized repeatedly. Brad had also been helpful in our assignments, such as application letters, resumes, peer teaching and oral presentations. He would give advices on how to correct our English language mistakes in our resumes, application letters and blog posts, and how we should overcome our problems in the peer teaching and oral presentations. For example, my group encountered the problem of not receiving responses from our intended interviewees for our proposal, so Brad advised us to look for Ms. Balkise, secretary of CELC, and even gave us her contacts. Thanks to Brad, we managed to receive some useful information from Ms. Balkise, and use these informations for our proposal.

I have learnt a lot of important lessons throughout this course. Firstly, I have learnt how to write my own resume and application letter, since I have never written them myself before. I have learnt more about interpersonal conflict and interracial relationships through the blog posts posted by my classmates, and how to prevent such unnecessary conflicts by exercising tolerance and understanding to others. From these blog posts, I have learnt many examples of how such cases of interpersonal and interracial conflicts can occur, and how they can be resolved or avoided. From the mock interview sessions, I have learnt what to expect from a real-life job interview, so that I can be more prepared in the future. Then, there are the peer teaching and oral presentation sessions. From these presentations, the stress to make a presentation in front of the entire class would not only make me learn in depth about the topic that I am going to present, it would also build up my confidence in delivering a speech in front of a crowd. Before I entered this course, I was a usually shy person who did not speak much, let alone speaking in front of a crowd. As a result, I would often stutter in front of others during a public speech. After this class, however, I feel more confident in speaking in front of others.

Besides the above mentioned, I have also learnt a lot of other skills, such as conducting an interview, conducting a survey, analyzing statistical results, and many more. There is simply too many things for me to list down.

Like all things, this course would eventually have to come to an end. I would like to say a big word of thank you to Brad, and all the fellow classmates of ES2007S: Professional Communication Group 10.

Thank you for this enjoyable 12 weeks of fun! This module would be my most unforgettable one in my entire stay in NUS!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Review on Project Oral Presentation

I had just recently completed my group's project oral presentation for our ES2007S: Professional Communication module in NUS. My team, also known as Team Gaia, had been conducting a research project to find out the extent of printing paper reduction in NUS, and how to further reduce the usage of printing paper. For weeks, our group have been conducting surveys and interviews just to gain evidence for the background of our project, so that we can prove that paper wastage is still a big problem in NUS despite the current measures taken (such as default double-sided printing in all printing points). After weeks of doing primary research, we had successfully compiled our finds into a proposal, and prepared an oral presentation of our proposal to the entire ES2007S Group 10.

Talking about the presentation, I would like to say again is that the oral presentation is a great way of learning not just for others, but for ourselves too. Frankly speaking, I had never heard of the OES "Paper Recyling Pilot Project" until I am doing this research. The project gave us a chance to see the current trend of printing paper usage in NUS, allowing us to be more aware that we could impose some actions to further reduce the usage of printing paper. More importantly, the stress to present our proposal in front of a group will force us to learn a lot about our presentation topics so that we can be adequately prepared to present. For Team Gaia's oral presentation, I believed that all of us were fully prepared for our presentation and had done very well. This shows that peer pressure can sometimes be a good teacher.

If I were to recall the biggest challenge for our project, I believed that it would be conducting the primary research for our project, mainly the survey and interview. The number of respondents for our survey was not as many as we hoped for, and we had difficulty in contacting the people that we had wanted to interview. This shows that primary research is not as easy as it sounds, since the kind of results that you expect would have to depend on the response of others. When the deadline of the proposal was drawing near, we had no choice but to settle on using the results from the small number of responses.

The project oral presentation is one of the last major presentation for the ES2007S module, so is the ES2007S course module itself. I am glad that our team's oral presentation has finally ended. All of us were happy with our presentations, and we believed our weeks of hard work had finally paid off.

How about you? How do you think about our presentation? Please kindly leave a comment for this post.

Thank you for your kind and generous comments!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Evaluating Intercultural Behaviour

This took place 12 years ago, when I was still a 11-years old kid.

I was in a tour group along with my entire family in Hong Kong. The tour group consisted my family and some other Singapoean families and individuals, and all of us are of Chinese race.

The whole group were walking past an old street Hong Kong when we came across an old restaurant that sell snake meat and snake wine. In front of the restaurant, there were live snakes exhibited inside cages, as well as skinned snakes hung on hooks like chickens hung on hooks in front of chicken rice store. When I first saw this restaurant, I was excited because this was the first time I saw a snake restaurant. I had heard tales from my family about restaurants selling snake meat and snake wine in places like China and Hong Kong, and I had also seen them shown in documentaries on TV.

As I was looking at the live snakes in front of the restaurants, I heard loud gasps behind me. I looked back to see that the other fellow Singaporeans in our tour group were pointing at the restaurant and remarking on how disgusting the snakes were. That time I was still young, hence I did not understand why did those people feel disgusted seeing snakes when they were also Chinese like us.

Now, after recalling some of the things I had learnt these past 12 years, I can roughly understand why those fellow Singaporeans felt disgusted seeing snake restaurants.

Eating snakes has been considered to be normal by some Chinese cultures. To the western societies, especially to the christians, snakes are considered to be evil and never to be touched, let alone eaten. In Singapore, many of the Chinese Singaporeans had been educated by the British system for generations. For many Chinese Singaporean families, snake eating cultures had been slowly "forgotten". As for my family, we belonged to a more traditional Chinese family. Although we had never eaten any snakes, we had heard about them. Hence I have never felt disgusted when looking at live snakes.

Do you know that Chinese also eat alot of other kinds of strange food beside snakes? Depending on the region, Chinese can treat any kind of animals as food; from spiders to bats, to even rats and dogs. To most societies, it may be considered as "disgusting", but to some Chinese, that is their life.

Still, it is quite amazing to see that there are such great contrast between the cultures of Chinese races living in different countries. Despite the same roots, there can be some things considered to be taboo for one dialect, and norm for another. Anyway, I believe that the difference between cultures should be respected, not disgusted. I feel that those Singaporeans who were pointing at the snake restaurant should feel ashamed of themselves. Even if the snake restaurant did not appeal to them, they should have respected snake eating culture of the locals, not to criticise it openly in the public like in 12 years ago. How will it be like if someone criticise durians to be stinky and disgusting in front of a durian lover?

Intercultural differences should be respected, not ridiculed. This is one of the many important concepts that I have learnt so far in this ES2007S course.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Review on Peer Teaching

Today, my peer teaching group consisting of me myself, Sheila and Min Hau, had conducted a peer teaching session with the ES2007S Professional Communication Group10 class. Our topic of peer teaching regards to designing survey questionnaire and interview, essential skills which will be needed for improving our effective communication skills. Designining survey questionnaire and interview will also have to be learnt since all reserch groups will require these skills to complete their research projects and proposals.

The experience of conducting a peer teaching session can be summarised in one word: enlightening. Why do I say so? This is because it feels so much different when I myself is the one who is standing in front of the class, conducting a lesson to everyone. Although this is not my first time making a presentation in front of the class, I can still always feel the mounting pressure on my shoulders when I stand in front of the entire class, knowing that the class will be paying full attention to me. Everytime when I stand up in front of the class to present, I will always have this form of mentality in my mind that I will be evaluated by everyone in the classroom, hence the stress will always be there, no matter how prepared I am.

Talking about preparedness, frankly speaking this preparation is quite rushed in my own point of view. Although the first peer teaching session in this class took place 3 weeks ago (so theoretically speaking we have 3 weeks to prepare), we only started carrying out plans 2 weeks ago, before finalising everything last night. The reason why we took so long to prepare our peer teaching session is because we had been gathering reference on how the other peer teaching groups conduct their own peer teaching sessions. As the fourth group to conduct our session, we are one of the last groups to conduct our session, and after we had witnessed the excellent peer teaching session on creating wiki pages by Forrest's (sorry if I have mispelled your name) group, we know that expectations on our presentations would be very high. Hence, alot of time and effort had been taken by our team to prepare this presentation in hoping to make it fun and enlightening to everyone, not just to the rest of the class, but also to our team as well.

From what I have learnt about peer teaching, I can say that peer teaching is one very effective way of learning, not just to those who are being taught, but also to ourselves too. As the person responsible for teaching others, what is the best way of preparing a presentation other than learning deeply about the topic that I have to present to others? Sometimes, stress and expectations can be a good motivator for learning, and after experiencing this peer teaching session, I cannot help but to agree with it.

I believe that our skills in conducting peer teaching and presentations can be further improved. Although we believed that we had been fully prepared for our own parts of the entire presentation, I think that the overall duration planning for the presentation is a little screwed up. Initially, we had planned this presentation to be only half an hour long. In the end, however, the presentation ended up to be almost forty-five minutes long. Due to the time constraints, we had to shorten the duration for the activity session. Maybe in the future, such error can be avoided through rehearsals and careful planning.

That is all I have to say about our peer teaching presentation. I hope everyone there had enjoyed our presentation.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Application Letter Critique

I have written an application letter for a part-time job as an animal keeper in the Singapore Night Safari. They are looking for either Singaporeans or Permanent Residents to apply for this job, which will require the applicant to be responsible for the care and well being of the animals through proper food preparation and feeding regime, as well as animal husbandry. Details of the job application can be found inside the link below.

Link to my selected job advertisement: http://recruit.zoo.com.sg/wrs/Jobdetails.aspx?JobID=27

Application for part-time animal keeper at Night Safari

September 3, 2010

Night Safari
80 Mandai Lake Road
Singapore 729826

Dear sir or madam:

I am writing to apply for the part-time job as an animal keeper, offered by you in your recruitment webpage. I am always interested in working with and caring for animals, and I am ready to commit myself in this job. If possible, I will shift from part-time to working full-time for this job.

I believe that I match all the requirements stated for this job, as posted in your recruitment webpage. I am a Singaporean with education level up to Diploma in Biotechnology. I am currently studying in Biological Science degree under National University of Singapore, and will expect to graduate by June 2012. I have completed National Service and I have been certified to be medically fit. I can speak fluent English and I can work happily with others as a team. I have experience in handling live animals, especially during my study for Diploma, when I have been trained to handle live fish and mice. I am also keen in caring for animals and I am enthusiastic in wildlife conservation. During January to July this year, I have volunteered as a Conservation Ambassador in Jurong Birdpark, and now I have enjoyed the experience of spreading the awareness of wildlife preservation to the general public. Now, I wish to take a further step in conserving wildlife, by interacting and caring for animals.

I am enclosing my resume, which will further show my qualifications for this job.

I would appreciate an interview with you at your convenience. I would be free at any weekends.

I look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Tan Riyan
Block xxx #xx-xxx
xxxxx Road
Singapore 670xxx
063-xxxxxxxx
xxxxxxxxx@xxxxx.com

(enclosure)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

Below is a hypothetical scenario, which I believe is one classic example of an interpersonal conflict.

Mark and Henry were colleagues working under the same section in a business company. Mark was a veteran, having served the company for more than twenty years, starting from the lowest position and working his way up steadily. He was very hardworking and had a traditional mindset that believes hardwork will always pay off one day. Henry, on the other hand, was a much younger employee who had just joined in only a few weeks ago. Despite his inexperience, Henry was very talented. As Henry had entered the company as a fresh university graduate in business studies, he had been promoted to the same position as Mark within the few weeks since his entry into the company. Of course when Mark had heard about Henry's promotion, he was not happy to see someone so young and inexperienced to be promoted so quickly, whereas it took years for him to achieve his current position.

Mark was still a bachelor, mainly because he was so hardworking that he had no time for romantic relationship. He was always serious in his works, so his superiors often entrusted him with alot of projects. Due to his always serious attitude, he was not very popular to his colleagues, but he was well respected for his experience.

Henry, on the other hand, was a rather relaxed and carefree individual. He was very friendly with good sense of humour, making him a very popular and well-liked person among his colleagues, except for Mark who felt that his carefree attitude was a sign of laziness. He was also married, and recently, he became into a father.

Mark and Henry had been tasked into working together on a very important project. As usual, Mark treated this project very seriously. However, when the deadline was closing in, Mark realised that he was having trouble in finishing the project within the deadline. He already had a handful of other projects to finish. To make matters worse, Mark felt that Henry did not have his fair share of his work in the project. Very often, he would leave the office early and head straight back to home, unlike Mark who worked overtime almost everyday for the project. The truth was; Henry also took the project seriously and tried to contribute as best as he could, but he had just became into a father and he had to rush back to home everyday to take care of his wife and baby.

One evening, Henry was preparing to rush back to home as usual. There were only five days left before the project deadline, and the project was only half done. Finally fed up with Henry's actions, Mark snapped and begin to shout at and accuse Henry for his lack of commitment in the project. In his rage, Mark also insulted Henry that he should never have deserved his promotion and he was nothing but an arrogant and lazy brat. Henry was shocked by the sudden outburst by Mark, and was left speechless for half a minute.

This is just one classic example of an interpersonal conflict. There are many factors that have caused this above conflict.

One of the main factor is generation gap. Mark belongs to an older generation of workers who have been taught of the traditional moral value of working hard to earn a living. When he saw that Henry managed to get his new position within the few weeks since joining the company, Mark would have felt envious and thought that it was unfair because Henry did not work as hard as he did to earn the position. Henry, on the other hand, would have felt that it was alright for him to earn his new position, since he had proven himself with his talents and he had already studied hard in his university and earned himself a good testimonial through his degree. The generation gap and the difference in mindset between Mark and Henry would have been the first spark of this conflict between the two individuals.

The generation gap would have caused the two colleagues to misunderstand each other, which in turn becomes the next factor for this conflict. As Mark always had a discrimination against Henry and was only paying attention to his own work, Mark did not bother to know more about his younger colleague. If he had known more about Henry personal life, he would have learnt that Henry was married and there was a reason why he had to rush back home everyday.

If I would to be one of their superiors who had happened to overhear their argument, I would first meet each one of them one by one to know more about the incident in their own individual point of view. From each of their own point of view, I would figure out the root cause of the incident, which in this case is the misunderstanding between the two of them, especially Mark. I would later advise them to meet each other face to face so that they can both settle their misunderstandings and hope they will learn to understand each other so that they can work better with each other in the future.

What about you, readers? What would you do if you are to resolve this interpersonal relationship.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Why is effective communication is important to me?

What is effective commnuication? To me, an effective communication will mean that both the speaker and the receiver can be able to pass all information to each other without any misunderstanding so that both parties will be able to fully comprehend each other's points. In an effective communication, the communicating parties will not just be passing information with each other through words, other factors such as body language, facial expression and speech mannerism are also accurately passed to each other. Both sides will be communicating with each other real time, not strictly with just one speaker and just one receiver. In the end, both communicating parties must be able to receive the correct information from each other without misintepretation.

Back to the main topic; the main reason why effective communication is important to me is because having effective communication skills is essential in this modern day society. The world is becoming into a global village, where travelling and communicating from one country to another can be performed in less than a day regardless of the distance apart. Thanks to the advances in infocomm technology, one can easily communicate with another through platforms such as internet chat rooms or social networking sites, allowing the communicating parties to exchange informations with each other real time without any delay. However, even though the world is becoming into a global village, there are still some barriers that prevent one to accurately pass the correct information to the receiver. Barriers such as cultural difference, language issues and generation gaps can still cause misintepretation of information between two communicating parties even in today.

One good example of the importance of effective communication can be seen in the Battle of Singapore during World War 2. The British general, Arthur A. E. Percival, ordered his troops to only retreat to town centre if necessary when the Japanese invaded. Unfortunately, Percival's officers misintepreted Percival's orders as immediate retreat. As a result, the defending British forces retreated without a fight, allowing the Japanese forces to advance deep into Singapore, causing the eventual defeat of the British troops. From this example, it can be shown the importance of effective communication. If the Percival's officers could interpret Percival's orders correctly and commanded their troops to stand their grounds instead of immediate retreat, the outcome of the battle might be very different and history might have changed.

We, as Homo sapiens sapiens, are social beings. As social beings, the ability to communicate with others correctly is highly important for us. Misunderstandings of information during communication can sometimes lead to disastrous results, such as broken relationships. When I mean broken relationships, I can refer to any kind of relationships, such as business, family, friends, romance, colleague, etc. The inability of effective communication would lead to one being left alone in the society, and as social beings, one would find it hard to survive on their own.

Hence, I believe that effective communication is not just important to me alone, but also important to everyone. We are living in the information age, and the ability to make effective communication is a key to allow us to interact with others. With effective communication, we can understand with one another without creating unnecessary conflicts.